Two Films by Douglas Sirk: A Scandal In Paris & Lured
Cohen Film Collection // Unrated // $55.99 // September 27, 2016
Review by Ian Jane | posted September 23, 2016
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
R E V I E W S
Graphical Version

The Movies:

Two films directed by Douglas Sirk in the late forties debut on Blu-ray for the first time by way of this two disc Blu-ray collection from The Cohen Media Group.

A Scandal In Paris (1946):

Based on the exploits of real life criminal, François Eugène Vidocq, A Scandal In Paris begins with the man's birth behind the walls of a French prison in 1775. As the years go on and grows into an adult (and is played by George Sanders), we see him rise to power as the Chief Of Police. Vidocq, however, has plans to use this position to his advantage and sets into motion a plan to rob one of the largest banks in the city. But of course, things happen in between, which is where the bulk of the film lies.

It doesn't go as planned and eventually Vidoq finds himself behind bars, but in prison he befriends Emile Vernet (Akim Tamiroff), the member of an entire family of career criminals. Together they manage to escape prison and, once they're free again, they decide to partner up. Emile manages to convince a beautiful dancer (Carole Landis) that he's a police officer and in turn, relieve her of her ruby garter. From there, they work their way into the home of the Marquise De Pierremont (Alma Kruger) and make off with a sizable collection of valuable gems. Eventually Vidocq falls in love with one of the people he robs, the lovely Therese (Signe Hasso), who just so happens to be the daughter of the police minister, Houdon De Pierremont (Alan Napier). However, a painting that Vidocq and Emile posed for, posing as St. George and the dragon respectively, gives those who would see them locked away for their crimes a good likeness of the master criminals.

Briskly paced and quite enjoyable, A Scandal In Paris is a little on the predictable side and in the grand Sirk tradition, ripe with some pretty serious melodrama but it's a fun movie. A large part of what makes it work is George Sanders in the lead. The guy had an insane amount of charisma and screen presence and he makes the villainous Vidocq quite likeable. This means that once the romance blossoms between he and Signe Hasso, you understand their mutual attraction and don't just immediately question why she'd involve herself with a criminal. Sanders carries the film quite admirably and he and Hasso have enough chemistry in their scenes together to make their relationship work.

On top of that, the film features a very good supporting cast. Akim Tamiroff and his impressive monobrow steal most of the scenes in which Emile is featured. He and his family provide some welcome comic relief here, and while they look like they've come from some sort of netherworld, they're likeable in a rascally sort of way. Carole Landis, who would sadly take her own life shortly after this film was made, is fairly stunning as the fiery burlesque dancer. She's voluptuous and beautiful and Sirk, intentionally or not, completely sexualizes her character in the film. As if she needed the help! Alan Napier is fun as the love interest's upper class father, and Alma Kruger enjoyable enough as the Marquise whose jewels are stolen. She does ‘upper crust' well and is a good casting choice for this particular part.

The period detail in the picture is good. There's lots of flashy wardrobe and costuming on display and the lighting and cinematography are glossy enough to ensure that the film always looks good. The score is occasionally a little overdone the same way that the melodrama is, but on that level it suits the tone of the movie nicely enough.

Lured (1947):

The second feature is set in post-war London, England where the city is experiencing a rash of murders. These are no random killings, however: each victim is a lovely young lady and each one of them just so happened to answer a personals ad in the newspaper. Once the murderer has committed his deadly deed, he then sends a taunting letter to Scotland Yard, written as a poem and serving as nothing more than an egotistical taunt.

The man in charge of the investigation is Scotland Yard's own Inspector Harley Temple (Charles Coburn). He's coming up empty until he meets a friend of the most recent victim, an American named Sandra Carpenter (Lucille Ball). They talk and he comes up with a plan to use Sandra as bait by having her answer the same ad as the other victims. He'll have Officer Barrett (George Zucco) tail her to make sure she doesn't come to any actual harm, and then hopefully the case will be closed. After meeting with a dress designer named Charles Van Druten (Boris Karloff), a club promoter named Robert Fleming (George Sanders again) catches her eye. As a dancer, she's interested in him professionally but there's more to it than this, and that ‘more' means she's going to ignore the fact that his business partner, Julian Wilde (Sir Cedric Hardwicke), has gone so far as to warn her about Fleming and his strange behavior.

This film, basically a thriller, plays to Sirk's strengths as a romantic by working in the subplot revolving around Sandra's feelings for Fleming and his response to her obvious attraction to him. Sanders and Ball look great together on camera, he's handsome and dashing and she really is quite beautiful here a few years before she'd go on to become a television icon. Together they do most of the heavy lifting, dramatically speaking at least, but we can't ignore a supporting cast as great as the one assembled for Lured. Boris Karloff is underused here but absolutely excellent as the eccentric dressmaker. His presence doesn't do much to advance the story along and it feels like stunt casting, but he's a lot of fun in the part so most fans won't mind it at all. A scene-stealing George Zucco proves he could handle comedy as well as anyone else in the business, he's hysterical more than once in this picture. Cedric Hardwicke and Charles Coburn are both really good in their parts, and look for Alan Napier to appear in this second film as well in a supporting role as a detective.

Production values are good here. The shadowy, fog lined streets of London make for a great backdrop off of which to spin a serial killer yarn, and the often times dark and atmospheric photography used in certain scenes gives the picture a noirish feel. The pacing is good and the film builds to a satisfying and reasonably tense conclusion, even if it is pretty easy to figure out who the killer is early on in the film.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

Each movie in this set appears on its own 50GB Blu-ray disc. A Scandal In Paris arrives on Blu-ray taken from "a new HD transfer from an archival 35mm interpositive" in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.30.1. Lured is framed at 1.37.1, also presented in AVC encoded 1080p, "restored from 35mm nitrate and 16mm safety material." Both films look quite good here but not so surprisingly, Scandal is the better looking of the two, showing stronger detail and more consistent black levels. There are moments where Lured looks just a little bit soft and where the blacks border on dark grey. Regardless, both transfers are pretty solid. Print damage is minimal, really only occasional specks here and there, no massive scratches or damage marks to complain about. Occasionally contrast will bloom a little bit but this looks to stem back to the original photography and for the most part, it appears to be just fine. Grain is present on both presentations, never distracting but definitely noticeable, while noise reduction and compression artifacts are never an issue.

Sound:

The only audio option for each feature is an English language mono track presented in LPCM lossless format. While Scandal definitely looked better than Lured, it doesn't sound better. There's some noticeable snap, crackle and pop throughout the feature that seemingly couldn't be eliminated. Fans of older films likely won't be too taken aback by this, but it is there and you will probably notice it. Lured has a little bit of hiss in spots but overall it is quite a bit cleaner sounding. Both tracks feature properly balanced levels and fairly robust sounding scores. Dialogue stays clean and clear and easy to follow throughout each picture, even when the hiss is present. There are no alternate language options, although English language closed captions are provided.

Extras:

Extras for this set are made up of primarily by commentary tracks. A Scandal In Paris lets film critic Wade Major talk about the history of the picture. He provides a lot of scene specific information as the film plays out and gives us some basic biographical information on the cast and crew involved in the shoot. He also offers up some insight into the effectiveness of a few scenes and his opinion on the quality of the film as a whole. Lured's commentary comes courtesy of film historian Jeremy Arnold. He talks about how Lucille Ball and Boris Karloff wound up working in a Sirk picture, discusses some of the darker themes that this particular film explores, offers up some thoughts on the effectiveness of the cast and crew, notes various aspects relating to the look of the film and quite a bit more. Both of these are interesting and well-paced and add certainly add some value to the set.

Each disc also contains a 2016 theatrical re-release trailer for its respective feature attraction, as well as menus and chapter selection. An insert booklet containing credits for each film is also included inside the Blu-ray case alongside the two discs.

Final Thoughts:

Cohen's two disc Blu-ray release of Two Films by Douglas Sirk: A Scandal In Paris & Lured is a good one, doing the best it can with some aging elements to provide decent quality high definition presentations of these early Sirk pictures. A Scandal In Paris presents all the melodrama and romance associated with the director's output performed by a solid cast with some fun mystery elements thrown into the mix, while the more interesting Lured gives viewers an intriguing slice of classic filmed mystery and suspense. Recommended.



Copyright 2017 Kleinman.com Inc. All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy DVDTalk.com is a Trademark of Kleinman.com Inc.